Alexandra Hospital Opens R4.6 Million Renovated Outpatients Department Building | Western Cape Government


Alexandra Hospital Opens R4.6 Million Renovated Outpatients Department Building

9 September 2012
Alexandra Hospital's renovated Outpatient's Department building was officially opened by the Western Cape Minister of Health, Mr Theuns Botha, and Prof Craig Househam, Western Cape Head of Health, on 10 September 2012.

Construction on the hospital's Outpatients Department building commenced in March 2011 and was completed in August last year at an approximate cost of R4.6 million. Additional space for physical examinations and dental treatment was made, including space for meetings with family groups, and/or multidisciplinary team meetings.

With the increase in ambulatory mental healthcare services, Alexandra Hospital's new Outpatients Department allows for a more efficient delivery of service. With that comes an improved quality of care to patients and an improved working environment for staff.

Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, says: "Intellectual disability/psychiatry and psychiatric hospitals were for many years shrouded in a cloud of prejudice, stigma and mystery. Many believed that these services have been treated as the stepchild of general medicine for a long time - partly because psychiatry and intellectual disability were seen as less glamorous and perhaps less scientific than heart surgery, dialysis, etc."

"Fortunately this perception has changed, partly because of the tremendous and giant contributions of many highly qualified and very able health professionals as well as national and international organisations. Mental health is now eventually receiving its rightful place in health service planning and enjoys the support from role players across the globe."

The refurbishment of the hospital's Education Building to accommodate a new Outpatients section provided an opportunity to dedicate the renovated building to a distinguished role model in the field of intellectual disability, Professor Frances Ames. At a time of revitalisation at Alexandra Hospital, it would be appropriate to honour a key clinical and education facility at the institution with Professor Frances Ames' legacy of clinical excellence, leadership, scholarship and human rights activism.

Alexandra Hospital offers various packages of care to people with varying degrees of intellectual disability, with and without co-morbid psychiatric illnesses. Specialists rendering these services include Psychiatric Nurses, Social Workers, Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, Medical Officers, Physiotherapists and Psychiatrists.

Amongst all the disciplines in the Outpatients Department, (Psychiatry, Psychology, Occupational Therapy, Social Work, Pharmacy and the Psychiatry Sister), about 400 patients are attended to per month.

Background Information:
History of Alexandra Hospital:

  • A cornerstone was laid at Alexandra Hospital on 13 January 1906 by HRH Duke of Connaught (Prince Arthur, son of Queen Victoria).
  • The hospital was named after Princess Alexandra of Great Britain and the building was only completed in 1914.
  • World War 1 broke out and the facility was used as a Military Hospital. After peace in 1918, it was decided to use it as an institute for the mentally handicapped.
  • On 3 June 1921, Dr Watson arrived from Great Britain and was appointed as the Senior Medical Superintendent of Alexandra Hospital. Ms Nutt was the first Matron at the hospital; also a Clerk and a Storekeeper lived on the premises and acted as Caretaker.
  • Alterations and additions had to be made to make the buildings suitable. On 5 July 1921, the first female patient was transferred from Valkenberg Hospital to Alexandra Hospital.
  • Later, more patients from Valkenberg Hospital and Pretoria were admitted and by September 1921, a total of 153 female patients were admitted to the hospital.
  • The first male patients were admitted on 25 October 1921 and by the end of December 1921 there were 92 male patients in total. Thus the hospital had 245 patients, 54 staff and three wards.
  • On 13 February 1922, Ms Cillingwood from England took up duties as principal of the school. During her retirement she paid frequent visits to the Institution. The school's motto was "KEEP SMILING".

About Professor Frances Ames:

  • Professor Francis Ames was trained in both psychiatry and neurology and for many years, was the Head of Department of Neurology at the University of Cape Town and Groote Schuur Hospital.
  • She was one of the Health Sciences Faculty's most distinguished and best loved professors, and was a trend setter who embraced multidisciplinary approaches to health care.
  • She is remembered as an ardent human rights and medical ethics activist, who, at personal and professional risk, was the driving force behind the successful action against the Medical Association of South Africa to hold an inquiry into the death of black consciousness leader Steve Biko in detention in 1977.
  • During her tenure in Neurology, Professor Ames maintained her interest in psychiatry and mental health. After her retirement in 1985, she joined the Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health as a part time lecturer and conducted sessions at both Alexandra Hospital and Valkenberg Hospital.
  • Professor Ames made a lasting contribution to the field of intellectual disability in the realms of patient care, teaching and clinical enquiry.
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